Austin Music Map: Baby Blue Studio
KUT’s Texas Music Matters is partnering with the national Localore project to create the Austin Music Map: a yearlong effort to go beyond the well-traveled streets of the Austin music scene in search of the hidden places where music is being made. We want your help discovering and documenting these places. To find out how to get involved, visit austinmusicmap.com or call our hotline with stories and tips: (512) 861-8266.
Much has been written about how gentrification in East Austin is changing the character of old communities. But one strip of Austin’s Eastside, famous for the blues, is retaining its character as a musical hotbed… albeit for a new sound.
For the past three and a half years, Baby Blue Studio has been operated by Bill Baird, a local musician and artist. He uses it as a recording studio and rents it out for shows to help cover the cost.
The low blue building, whose entrance is guarded by two looming geometric figures painted by Adrian Landon Brooks, has become the home for Exploded Drawing, a regular series of underground electronic music shows.
But before the building was one of Austin’s most interesting DIY spaces, it was a blues club called the Eastside Lounge, which featured music five nights a week by regulars like Hosea Hargrove, T.D. Bell, and Sly & the Houserockers. This recent history was described in an article in the Austin Chronicle back in June 1998:
The appeal of such a neighborhood bar is not lost on Eva Lindsey, who invokes the Eastside when explaining her notion of black community: “In the early 1900s, we’d gather for everything. We’d gather for church, we’d gather for celebrations, we’d just gather as a people because that was essentially all we were allowed to do under Jim Crow…. And I think the Eastside Lounge is the epitome of gathering. It’s probably the last bastion of how people gather – and music is made and people really still have a good time.
Curious to learn more about the old blues scene on E. 12th, we tracked down William (B.B.) Lee, who has lived on New York Avenue between Comal and Chicon for more than 70 years.
Lee told us about the changes he’s witnessed in the neighborhood and readily rattled off the names of the clubs that used to line the block: The Palladium, The Blue Flame, The Yellow Jacket, The Oak Tree. He said he’d heard noise coming from what used to be the East Side Lounge, but hadn’t realized it was still a performance space.
“Do I go out anymore? No. Got a little too fast for me nowadays,” he said. “I think my dancing days are over with.”
Do you have memories of old clubs and venues that have been transformed or lost or layered upon? Do you know of places with hidden backstories? Call our Austin Music Map hotline and leave a message: (512) 861-8266.